I sent a bunch of property home over the weekend. Ancient letters and cards and photos dating back to when I first began this odyssey in March 2005. I’ve still got a few more miles to go but I’m getting closer. What a long, strange trip it’s been.
One of the more beautiful artifacts I found in my locker wasn’t all that old… 2016. It was a motion to correct an illegal sentence. In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court had struck down something called the “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act. When the ruling was made retroactive, it opened a small window for me.
The prosecution argued that my sentence should remain at 379 months, that I was the exact type of criminal that Congress had in mind when they enacted the law. In response, my public defender authored this masterful brief that took excerpts of the essays I’d been writing for years and wove them into her argument. She also attached copies of my book covers.
When I say writing saved me, this is part of what I mean. I began Consider the Dragonfly because I was sick of the hamster wheel of prison life and wanted to do something different. I was just trying to live right, trying to be a better man, trying to salvage what was left of my dumpster fire of a life. I had no idea that years later, some Supreme Court decision would get me back into court and those same words might help get me home. Yet that’s exactly what happened.
But it wasn’t just my words. It was yours. It was all those letters of support that were attached to the back of the motion.
Reading them on my cell floor the other night for the first time in years had me a little emotional. My mind was flooded with images… Of my brother Keith at his computer, of Kelly and Marcus in their living room working on drafts, of Hailey with a notebook at the kitchen table, of Lindsey in his office between patients, of Mimi after church, of Ashton… Of all of you guys. You know who you are. For a brief moment, I could see you in 2016. Putting your busy lives on pause to write a federal magistrate because you believe in me, because you care, because you want me home. I’m lucky to have such incredible people in my life. Lucky to have family and friends. I’m surrounded by men who have no one. Many don’t even have release dates. “There, but for the grace of God…”
In the end, the judge rejected the government’s argument and resentenced me to 288 months. It still sounds like a lot, right? But those seven years and seven months of freedom I got back represent seven more Christmases, seven more years to play with a generation of nieces and nephews who were born since I’ve been away, seven more years with Mom…
Thank you again.